A Nerd and Proud of It

by Brian on February 16, 2006

in A Parent in Israel


“You’re a ch’noon,” my twelve-year-old daughter Merav impishly pronounced me one day after I refused to let her take an “emotional health” day from school.

“What’s a…what did you call me?” I replied.

“A ch’noon,” Merav said, repeating the Israeli slang that, to the best of my fading Hebrew uplan memory, was not on the weekly list of frequently used words like the Hebrew for “café” and “bus” and “explosion.”

“It means nerd,” Merav clarified. “Like you.”

“Why? Because I liked learning when I was a kid?” I shot back. “Because I think you should too?”

Ch’noon, ch’noon, ch’noon,” Merav chanted.

“Sshhh…” I said, noticing that seven-year-old Aviv was listening, If he picked up anything vaguely derogatory, we’d never hear the end of it.

How did it get to this? I mean, how did I become a ch’noon? After all, I have tried for most of my parenting life to be the cool dad, the dad who could really relate to his children. I could feel their pain and offer worthwhile advice from vividly remembered and still relevant experience, not just platitudes and stuff that might have worked in “the old days.” Sure I might be 45, but in my mind, I would forever be 16 (which, by the way, is not necessarily a good thing, my therapist notes).

And so, around the dinner table, I was open to answering any question. Fire away: politics, drugs, rock and roll. Even sex…our Friday night discussions might not make Dr. Ruth blush, but she’s certainly want to join in the conversation.

All this required staying up-to-date with the latest media. When my wife Jody chastised me for listening to Howard Stern, I rationalized it as keeping my finger on the pulse of what’s hip. Listening to alternative rock radio over the Internet for me was a job not just a pastime.

Indeed, music has always been a particular passion and I’ve not been a dad who got stuck on Springsteen (not that there’s anything wrong with that). How many other dads make it a point to stay up on the cutting edge of the latest indie/emo pop, who can introduce their kids to Death Cab for Cutie, Interpol and Snow Patrol? Britney Spears and Madonna – that’s what real ch’noon wannabe-cool dads listen to.

Mind you, all of this might be a bit of over-compensation. When I was my kids’ ages, I actually was a ch’noon. The only time I got anything less than an A in a class was in Driver’s Ed – darn that pesky simulator!

I read sci-fi voraciously, laughed a little too hard at Monty Python, and was head of the Math Team (mind you, though, only the “B” team, and we lost every competition we entered). I didn’t have a pocket protector, but for a time I did carry my scientific calculator on my belt – hey, it was just more convenient that way!

When I got invited to a party, it was with the band geeks, not the stoners and the jocks…and I didn’t even play an instrument.

But times had changed. I had changed.

“Give it up,” my friend Seth said to me as I was lamenting my descent in nerd-dom in synagogue one Kiddush. “She’s your daughter. There’s nothing you can do to be cool in her eyes.”

Easy for him to say. But maybe he was right. If I laughed too hard in front of Merav, or tried to make a joke in Hebrew, Merav would roll her eyes and give me that withering look that until recently I took as a term of endearment.

Maybe I should accept my fate with my daughter…my daughter…just a minute…what about…

“Amir,” I asked my fourteen-year-old son as I caught him wolfing down brownies and burekas at the Kiddush. “Do you think I’m a ch’noon?”

“No, not at all,” Amir said without a blink. “You like the same things I do…you know, computer games and BattleStar Galactica and the Internet.”

I beamed, until I realized that the very things he was referring to…were what had gotten me thrown into the ch’noon box in the first place.

I turned to Aviv. “Do you think your Abba is a ch’noon?” Aviv just ran around to my back and punched me in the tush.

I think that was a yes.

Well, there you have it. Once a ch’noon, always a ch’noon I suppose. At least one of my kids thinks I’m moderately cool. The others will come around…eventually…right? In the meantime, there’s not much I can do about it.

Yes, I am a ch’noon. And darn proud of it!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Anonymous February 17, 2006 at 2:14 pm

Hey this is Amir speaking.
I'm Brian's son, and I just wanted to let his devoted readers know that he's done it again. He's bent reality to fit for what he wants.
This is what really happened:
Most of the story is true (as far as I know) but when he asked me if I thought he was a nerd I agreed with him wholeheartedly.
I just hate it when he makes me sound dumb, or say something I would never normally say, etc. So for any of you out there who know me…just don't take his stuff too seriously 🙂
Other than that it was a great story even after having lived it 😉 So peace out and good shabbos.

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